Category Archives: Digital Publishing

Calvin and Hobbes Go Free!

The entire run of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip is now free to read online or via the Go Comics mobile app (again, for free). Calvin and Hobbes have been some of the best Sunday funnies reading ever. The strip has been put online in a promotional effort for an upcoming documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson.

Go read the strip

Calvin and Hobbes

I know I am going to check in on Calvin and his tiger ever day. I wonder if the film will be any good….

O’Reilly Cancels Tools of Change Conference

Yesterday, Tim O’Reilly announced that, after a seven year run, O’Reilly Media would no longer organize their annual “Tools of Change” conference. Of course, like many I was asking a fearful “Why? What’s not working?” Which is why I was thankful to see this quick exchange between LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding and O’Reilly-founder Tim O’Reilly:

Tools of Change Talk

The two Tims talked via Twitter briefly where Tim O’Reilly said that there was a definite opportunity cost:

“Expensive in NY, not very profitable, not enough resource to do everything we want”.

So it sounds that, yes, as ebooks settle into their own and trends are maturing and flattening, it was really a numbers decision to pull the plug on the Tools of Change conference.

The TOC conferences have been fun. While many other digital publishing conferences have popped up over the past few years, TOC tended to focus on “high level views” of publishing and technology. While the details were mentioned and listed, there were more chats and sessions on trends and next year’s tools than this year’s strategies and products.

Speaking of which, it sounds like (paragraph 5) O’Reilly plans on rolling out their own publisher-focused tools in the coming months. I’m anxious to see what they can offer that other services and add-ons don’t already. It’d be exciting to see then apply their forward-looking experience to current publishing tools and services. We’ll see.

New Movie about the Death of Paper Books

Here  is a minute and 55 second trailer for Out of Print, a documentary that tries to capture what the digital shift is doing to books, businesses and cultures around the world. That’s a lot of ground to cover! But the lineup is pretty impressive. Narrated by Meryl Streep they talk with Jeff Bezos, authors Scott Turow and Ray Bradbury as well as elementary school teachers, bookstore owners and developmental psychology experts.

I’m hoping it’s balanced and not just “the sky is falling” or “print is dead”. The issue and trend is certainly more complicated and worth more level thought than the emotionally tainted headlines touted in the media these days. There are definitely pros and cons to be said of every step we take into the new digital world.

Regardless of where you think things stand in regards to the death of paper books, Out of Print looks to be a movie worth seeing. It’s certainly worth watching the trailer. Hopefully it’ll be online soon for rent or purchase as, like many of these indie movie deals, it’s not showing anywhere near Birmingham.

Where eBooks Fail

I buy 100% of my non-fiction as paper books and about half of my fiction as ebooks. This is because, when it comes to non-fiction, device makers have yet to consistently deliver a reading experience that comes close to paper when reading charts, graphs, maps, highlighting, writing in margins, etc.

I wanted to share this 16-second video as an example. I took it at a B&N while checking out the largest most expensive nook HD they had on display. So here I am flipping through their sample ebook of The Hobbit, viewing an inline graphic:

Do you know how frustrating that is? The screen actually goes black. . . every. . . time. Imagine what it’d be like trying to view a business book (logging 15 seconds just to see an image) with a gazillion charts or a travel guide with detailed neighborhood maps!? I know everyone is moving at a break neck speed and trying to keep up with formats, devices, standards, unlocking content, etc. but we’re all killing the book if we’re not openly honest about on which devices ebooks fail and where they work.

I bet publishers never thought they’d see themselves in the “customer service” field. But I know they’re getting more and more  calls/emails from upset customers because their “book doesn’t look right”. Trust me when I say that reading a travel guide, a Kindle Fire customer will have a totally different experience from a Kindle Paperwhite customer. But the book gets a bad review all the same, even when it’s the device’s limitations. Someone should have helped that customer understand what they were getting when they bought the device as well as when they bought the book.

I hope publishers, device makers and device sellers will be more honest and open about what the eReaders and eBooks are good for and when a pound of paper yields the better user experience. No one wins when the reader is frustrated.